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ALesson in Change


In my February column, I debated the growth of the movie downloading business and discussed the differences between Blockbuster’s DVD-by-Mail program and Netflix’s online “Watch Instantly” offer. I rambled on about how streaming movies and cozying up to a laptop was so unsatisfying. But nearly two weeks later, I started to ride the waves of hypocrisy, and was guilty of judging too soon.

I’m blaming my change of heart on my recent obsession with ABC’s hit show “Lost.” I rented the first season through my Blockbuster Total Access subscription in mid-February. Not only did this gobble up my social life for the better part of the month (Sorry friends, must find out what’s happening on the island!), it pretty much stole my sanity—I was determined to get up to speed before the fourth season started a few weeks later.

It was no longer important for me to watch a DVD on a TV, per my initial argument. I began lugging my DVDs and trusty laptop anywhere I could to whip through those discs in record time.

But soon, my rental plan couldn’t keep up. I would receive a disc in the mail, watch all four hour-long episodes on it in one night, and then run to Blockbuster just a few blocks away to exchange it for another. (Blockbuster allows you to bring in your DVD received by mail and exchange it for one in the store, as a way to hold you over until the next disc in your queue is mailed.) But imagine my pangs of withdrawal—after breezing through that last disc, I would have to wait for the next one to arrive a few days later. I even planned my social calendar around when it might finally land in my mailbox.

It was during this time that a friend nonchalantly mentioned that “Lost” episodes could be streamed online for free at . My initial reaction was an exasperated, “You tell me this now?” But I streamed away and finished catching up just before the Season 4 debut.

Though I became certifiably crazy during this marathon month, it certainly influenced my viewing patterns. That said, I knew it was time to make the switch. I bid farewell to my Blockbuster Total Access plan and welcomed Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” online streaming plan. It was love at first sight.

So here I am, just five months after the infamous column, daintily tiptoeing off my soapbox. As technology continues to make life easier, it’s not hard to change old habits and indulge.

And changes continue. Netflix recently joined with Roku, Saratoga, Calif., to offer The Netflix Player, a device that allows subscribers to view movies directly on their televisions. (Can we say “full circle?”)

While I have a new relationship with my laptop, I was confronted with a few small kinks with the “Watch Instantly” program. The laptop I travel with is a Mac, which isn’t compatible with Netflix. My Internet Explorer browser somehow runs more slowly on my Dell at home (Netflix requires Internet Explorer). And here’s the kicker: Would you believe there’s not one “Lost” episode available for streaming on Netflix?

So to be honest, it was only lust at first sight—but like any relationship, we’re working through it. If Netflix irons out some of its kinks, this could be the start of a meaningful, long-lasting partnership.

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